It’s not immediately apparent why people rave about Ubud. The alleged tourist highlight—the Monkey Forest—is underwhelming. The main streets through town are terribly tacky. What with the crowds of holier-than-thou yoga devotees and earnest Eat Pray Love pilgrims, it’s tempting to write the place off as yet another spoiled stop on the tourist trail. But step away from the center and Ubud’s charms become more apparent, especially if you treat your stay there as a chance to get fit and healthy rather than simply sight-see.
7am. It’s worth getting out of bed early to beat the heat and run the Campuhan Ridge. The hilly 7.5km circuit is by no means easy, but it affords stunning views into the lush valleys on either side and the path beyond takes you through neon green rice fields, past faded old temples and quiet villages; it’s a shame, though, that to complete the loop you have to run a couple of clicks on the road. The starting point is hidden away to the left as you enter the Ibah Resort.
8:30am. Time for a well-earned breakfast! Start with the healthy dishes on the menu at Kemiri, one of the on-site restaurants at Uma by COMO Ubud. Recent offerings include an egg white tortilla and a tropical fruit salad with bee pollen (both IDR200,000) as well as juice blends like the Lean and Clean Greens (apple, fennel, cucumber, spinach, green pepper, celery, sunflower seeds, macadamia nuts and spirulina powder; IDR65,000); but the menu changes regularly.
10am. Straight back into the fray. Join a white-water rafting expedition (US$50 ($63)) organized by the Ubud-based Bali Bike BaikTours. The 14km route along the Ayung River (half an hour drive from Ubud) involves some Class III rapids, so be prepared to get wet. They also offer full-day bike tours, which see you freewheeling (most of) the 20-something kilometers downhill from Mount Kintamani.
2pm. Ubud’s first raw food restaurant, the vege-vegan Garden Kafe, is a great spot to grab a quick bite before your next physical activity: it’s on-site at the The Yoga Barn. You’ll hear this five-studio center talked about in hushed, reverential tones by the type of folk who come to Ubud to find themselves—but it really is among the best places in town to practice your downward dog (see our interview with founder Charley Patton here). Classes start from 7am and all run for 90 minutes, but those in the middle of the afternoon (3pm) are typically pitched at an introductory level and run the gamut from meditation and Vinyasa flow to acro-yoga and even Capoeira.
5:30pm. There are few places better to watch the sun go down (and catch your breath after the day you’ve just had) than Pomegranate, a canvas-roofed, open-to-the-elements café and bar perched right in the middle of the rice fields, with mountains looming on the horizon. It’s a delightful 15-minute walk up a single-track (and somewhat secret) pathway from the main road. Drinks are far from fancy, but with views like this you don’t need them to be. Get there early to grab a seat on the edge—and bring a flashlight if you’re planning to walk back down in the dark.
8pm. If you want to end the day on a healthy high then walk just a minute further uphill for dinner at Sari Organik, which serves up dishes like lontong (rice cooked in banana leaves with vegetables, tofu and tempeh in curry sauce) and raw Thai soup (a mish-mash of cashew nut, cucumber, mushrooms, turmeric, pepper and coriander) made from produce grown in their own garden right next door.
If, on the other hand, all this talk of wellness is getting a bit too much and you just want to have fun, it’s time to head back down to the main road and grab a seat at Naughty Nuri’s Warung. This ribs and grill specialist is packed most nights, with clientele spilling out onto the streets. Anthony Bourdain reckons they serve the best martinis outside of New York, so odds are you’ll need to run through the whole cycle again tomorrow just to undo the damage.
Ubud isn’t exactly short of accommodation, but it can be hit and miss. Luxe spot Uma by COMO Ubud is well located for the itinerary above and ideally suited for anyone looking for a holistic, healthy weekend. Rates start from US$820 ($1,030) for a minimum two-night package, with their pool villas going for US$1,180 ($1,480) for two nights. The on-site COMO Shambala Retreat is the perfect tonic for over-exerted bodies, with a 90-minute deep tissue massage available for IDR730,000 ($80). The hotel also offers complimentary yoga classes and early morning walks, as well as healthy cuisine at both Kemiri and Italian restaurant Uma Cucina. Packages include “Discover Ubud Culture” (an additional US$305 ($382) for two nights), which involves tours of the markets, group yoga and a choice between white-water rafting, a freewheel mountain bike ride and a chauffeured tour of Ubud. Book with Mr and Mrs Smith for special rates.
Singapore Airlines, Garuda, Tigerair, AirAsia and Jetstar all have daily direct flights from Singapore to Bali. AirAsia’s 9:05pm flight is your best bet if you’re looking to head off straight after work, with fares starting from $225 return, including taxes.
VISA AND GETTING AROUND
Singaporeans don’t need a visa to enter Bali, but most other nationalities do: it’s US$25 ($31) on arrival. You’ll also need to hold onto IDR200,000 ($22) for the departure tax on your way home.
Getting from Denpasar to Ubud takes an hour by taxi: the official rate is IDR300,000 ($33).